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Rick Seaney on Today Show: How to Save on Summer Airfare

Rick Seaney Today Show Summer Airfare Prices

Did you happen to catch me on the Today Show?

If not, take a look at the video below. The report focuses on Memorial Day travel, but check it out because it also tells you a lot about what to expect for summer airline ticket prices. Yours truly notes note that summer airfare has already risen from $30 to $60 on average from the summer of 2010.

What you can do to save on summer travel: Find out the best day to shop for airfare and the cheapest days to fly, and also sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts, and we’ll let you know in real-time when prices on the trip you want to take come down.

Now here’s the video; if you have a moment, please let me know what you think on Facebook.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Gas Pump Prices and the Cost of Your Airline Ticket

Gas Pump Prices and Cost of Airfare

If you haven’t seen my latest “Airfare Expert” column in USA Today, I’ll give you the brief version now (but do take a look at the column if possible, for the unique graphics).

Why does airfare cost so much these days?

Airfare costs are route specific and fluctuate according to numerous factors like competition or lack of same (think of mergers, like the recent Southwest/AirTran deal), and the rising cost of oil.

Jet fuel remains the top expense for airlines today; it’s risen from about 20% of a carrier’s expenses to close to 40%.

However, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn of plans for several start-up airlines which are in abeyance until the price of jet fuel drops, possibly until oil comes down the about $70 per barrel (which sure would be nice).

What does airline seating capacity have to do with higher prices?

In recent years, airlines cut capacity dramatically, which is why it’s so rare to find an empty seat next to you. And of course, fewer empty seats helps keep prices up – supply and demand.

How frequently do airlines raise their airfare?

So far this year there have been 12 attempts at raising airfare prices, and seven of those attempts were successful. You can be sure they’ll try again. And again.

Sounds like pretty soon, only the wealthy will be able to afford to fly, right?

Not a chance; the airlines have to keep their planes full to make any money (or to avoid losing money), and when they can’t fill their planes, the discounts will come. In the meantime, smart shopper must sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts - to be among the first to know when deals are available.

Traveling to Europe in 2011 – Finding Cheap Flights

USA Today Column Travel to Europe Cheap Flights

Hope you had a chance to see my latest airfare column at USAToday.com. My topic: how to find cheap flights to Europe.

Let me give you the condensed version here:

Will prices to Europe be higher this summer?

Yes. In the summer of 2009, you could find flights to Ireland for well under $500 roundtrip total; this summer, that’s your starting point – and by that I mean you’ll pay about $500 just in taxes, fees and surcharges – before you add in the actual airfare.

Will a nonstop flight cost more?

In most case, expect to pay a premium of from $150 to $350 for a nonstop; avoid those if you want to save.

Does it matter what day of the week I travel to Europe?

It does. Most of the airlines to Europe file two different price points: one for travel on the so-called “midweek days” which are Monday through Wednesday, and another for travel on what the “weekend days” (Thursday through Sunday). If avoid travel on “weekends”, you’ll save about 40 bucks each way.

What about a Saturday night “stay-over”?

Many of the cheapest European fares do require a Saturday night stay; if you don’t follow this rule, you could wind up paying hundreds of dollars more.

What can you tell me about Europe’s seasons?

I can tell you that the best time to fly to Europe depends on the season; some are cheaper than others:

  • Cheapest: Winter 

Begins mid to late November — Ends mid to late March

  • Less Cheap: Fall 

Begins mid to late August — Ends mid to late November

  • More Expensive: Spring 

Begins mid to late March Ends late May/first week of June

  • Most Expensive: Summer 

Please see my complete column for more money-saving tips on Europe travel.

12th Domestic Airfare Hike Attempt – FAIL

May 2, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News | 0 comments

12th airfare hike attempt fail

Last week, I told you about the latest attempted airfare hike on the part of U.S. airlines; this was a hike initiated by United/Continental.

And for those keeping score, it was the 12th airfare hike attempt of the year; for comparison purposes, in all of 2010, there were just three hikes total (and see my chart below for the 2011 data).

This latest attempt didn’t last long. On Friday, there was some matching activity with American, Delta and US Airways joining in on this $6 to $10 roundtrip hike, but things quickly went south – and by Sunday evening, all these legacy carriers rolled back. No hike.

What happened? Well, for one thing, none of the low cost carriers jumped in (though they have, from time to time, initiated some hikes).

Bottom line:  For 2011 hike attempts, the airlines’ batting average is .583.

We’re keeping a close eye out for any future attempts, and I know we’ll see more. In the meantime, here’s my chart on all the attempts so far this year,  and the respecitive success/failure rates.

12th Domestic Airfare Hike of 2011 – Now Underway

April 29, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Pricing Activity | 0 comments

12th Airfare Hike

Here we go again.

The latest airfare hike attempt was launched last night by United/Continental (its merger was officially “closed” in October of 2010 but they still operate under two different names for the moment); this was the 12th attempted hike of the year and it covered the bulk of these airlines’ respective route systems.

This was a “laddered” airfare hike – the first we’ve seen in awhile. It works like this:

United/Continental added $6 to roundtrip routes of less that 1,000 miles and $10 roundtrip to longer routes.

Let’s see who will be the first to “match” these hikes. We’ll keep you updated.

Airfare Expert: Save on Las Vegas Flights

Airfare Expert USA Today Cheap Flights to Las Vegas

Cheap Flights to Vegas

If you haven’t seen my latest “Airfare Expert” column in USA Today, I’ll give you a short version here, but do check it out; I think you’ll enjoy the behind-the-scenes insider info on airfares.

1. Are airfares to Las Vegas rising? 

Yes, they are and you can blame rising fuel prices. Look for summer airfare to be about 10% higher than last year.

Want to save on flights to Vegas? See this FareCompare exclusive: Cheap Flights to Las Vegas: Air Travel Cheat Sheet

2. What airlines are best for Vegas? 

Discount airline Allegiant is big in Vegas from a number of smaller towns, and Spirit has increased the number of its daily seats to Sin City by almost 240%. Warning: if you don’t pack carefully, you could get stung by the discount carriers’ relatively high baggage fees.

3. When to buy flights to Las Vegas? 

Book your airline tickets for June travel now, but wait a few more weeks if you’re planning to fly in July (especially the latter part of the month). As always, the cheapest day to shop for airfare to Vegas – or any U.S. domestic city – is Tuesday at about 3pm eastern time. Also note: the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

11th Domestic Airfare Hike of the Year is Now Underway

April 18, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News | 0 comments

Airfare Hike Attempt Number 11

UPDATE (4-20): The hike sticks; chalk up another airfare hike in the “success” category.

UPDATE (4-19-11): Late last night, American Airlines and JetBlue matched the $10 roundtrip hike, and today they were joined by United/Continental. Alaska Airlines has matched on part of its route system. Still on the sidelines: Southwest, AirTran and US Airways.


This morning (4-18-11), Delta Air Lines launched a new $10 roundtrip domestic airfare hike across the bulk of its U.S. route system.

This is the 11th attempted domestic hike this year; the first six “stuck” meaning they were successful, but the most recent four collapsed after initial matching by legacy airlines (please see my “hike timeline” below).

That’s not all: last week, legacy airlines modified a slew of summer departures on domestic routes with a $20 roundtrip hike for travel between June 9 and August 21. Moreover, some legacy airlines are tinkering with their peak summer travel surcharges to maintain competitive equilibrium.

What this means is that the airline that first raises prices must get competitors to match (and relatively quickly) or that first airline risks winding up on page five of results on airline ticket price comparison sites – as Delta did after it raised prices earlier today – which effectively puts it “out of sight, out of mind” for many online shoppers. And this adds up, since ticket search sites garner millions of searches a day.

When airlines on are the wrong side of this competitive equilibrium, it is akin to being temporarily pulled from comparison sites (or pulling out of them by choice) – not unlike what we’ve seen with that ongoing situation between American Airlines and Orbitz

Cheap Flights to Orlando: When and How to Find Airline Tickets

Cheap Flights to Orlando

My latest airfare column for USA Today is about finding deals to Orlando. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a down-and-dirty version, but please see Airfare Expert: Scoring a cheap ticket to Orlando for all the behind-the-scenes details (plus some fascinating charts).

Which airline to fly to Orlando? 

Chances are good you’ll fly a low-cost airline to Orlando. Southwest alone controls about 25% of all seats to Orlando and together, Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue fly half of all the seats.

When to buy tickets to Orlando?

Quick answer: buy as soon as possible, but not too early. If you buy more than three months before departure you may pay more.

Shop for cheap flights to Orlando on Tuesdays  

Tuesday is the best time to start shopping, specifically Tuesday at 3 pm Eastern. We know this because an airline typically launches a sale on Monday evening, and by the following afternoon, other airlines have matched the discounts to stay competitive. Note: these airfare sales typically last three days, meaning your optimal shopping window is Tuesday to Thursday. If you shop on the weekend, you will probably pay more.

Cheapest days and times to fly to Orlando?

Many of the lowest fares to Orlando are restricted to departures on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, which are typically the cheapest days to fly to any U.S. destination. If this doesn’t work for your schedule, try to fly on at least one of these days, so you reap a partial cost benefit.

Don’t forget the baggage fees

Figure on $50 per person per checked-bag unless you fly the “free bag” airlines: JetBlue and Southwest. Personally, I always use a carryon.

Try this, too: sign up for FareCompare Airfare Alerts, and we’ll let you know when prices drop on flights to Orlando – or anywhere you want to go.

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